Manataka® American Indian Council
(This story is not finished - a work in progress.
Please note: the dates contained in this article may be incorrect
and should not be considered before more research is completed.)
During our first journey to Manataka back in 1955, we knew very little about this sacred place and its secrets. During the next 50-odd years, we learned many things about this special place, but in all this time the origin and meaning of the word "Manataka" did not present itself as an important issue -- until now.
Apache Grandmother Napanee Louise Henrietta Gray Horse moved to Manataka (Hot Springs) in 1927 (some say the year was 1921) at age 14. I was her friend and student and she was one of my guides. It was Napanee who first told this writer that the name of this these sacred grounds is Ma-na-ta-ka.
Napanee said the word for the sacred mountain, Manataka, came from the "ancient ones from the South," and it means the Place of Peace, or more literally, the Unbroken Circle. How she came to know the name is described later in this text and has become part of the intricate tapestry of recollections, stories, and legends that tell the Story of Manataka.
Napanee was the young wife of Chiricahua Benito Altaha Gray Horse. She made her home with Benito in Gulpha Gorge at the foot of the great Manataka mountain until sometime after he stepped over the stream of life in 1945. According to Napanee, she was forced off the home place but she was never clear on who took the land. She built a small shack on the mountain off Sleepy Valley Road. It is there where we met years later when she was wore white hair and was bent with age.
While among dominant society, Napanee did not use her English first name "Louise" but preferred her middle name, Henrietta that she pronounced it Eh-ni-eeta. Over a period of several years, Napanee told us many stories about her life with Benito and things she had learned from him, and spiritual elders who often came to pray at the sacred mountain.
The process of coming to know Napanee spanned several years. She did not like people. She loved the plants and animals of the forest and especially Manataka, but she avoided contact with white man.
Napanee could not speak English when she came to the Valley of the Vapors. She had barely seen a white person before leaving her Apache home as Gray Horse led a wagon across the country to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The First Meeting
Sometime after our last move to Sleepy Valley in the Gulpha Gorge in 1979, I arose around 4 a.m. to prepare for an out-of-state trip. As I stood yawning and looking out of the big picture window with a view of the pond across the road, I saw a white-haired lady, stooped with age, making her way slowly down the road. I thought to myself, "Where did this woman come from? She is a stranger to the neighborhood and there are few houses from the direction she came where she might live. I thought it curious, but let the questions go as I got busy preparing to leave.
As months went by, I spotted the same old woman walking down the road in the wee hours of the morning several times. Each time, questions about her identity occupied my thoughts and became more pronounced. The sight of this woman in the dark foggy early mornings started to bug me. I asked around the neighborhood and no one knew the old lady I described and no one ever saw her. Several times, I strolled down the road from where I had seen her walk. Nothing. Then, I thought she must be returning to a home in the other direction. My investigation of that idea soon fizzled out. Now, the issue began to consume my thoughts and I got increasingly upset each time I saw her walk by.
Finally, I decided to confront the old woman. One morning around 3:00 a.m., I got up and went across the street carrying a fishing pole and I sat down on a little bench across the street from my home pretending to fish. A few minutes later, she came shuffling by and I turned around and said, "Hello, chilly morning huh?" The white-haired old lady did not look up or respond to my greeting. She just kept slowly walking by. I know she heard me and that really bugged me. I then became determined to find out something about her, come hell or high water.
This time I went to every home up and down along the road and described in detail the situation. Everyone shook their heads. I believe some of my neighbors thought I was crazy seeing things as I continued to obsess over the vision of the old woman.
I repeated my fishing expedition ploy several more times without success as she simply walked by without so much as a nod in my direction. Then, I got the idea of that I would follow her and may be that would tell me more about her identity. Three times, I arose early, dressed in all black so as not to be seen, and hid in the bushes with a view of the road. Three times, I followed her to the end of the road leaving Sleepy Valley where it intersects with Gulpha Gorge Road and that is where I lost her each time. This woman is not a ghost I convinced myself.
Oddly enough, I never saw the woman returning to where ever she came from north on Sleepy Valley Road. Curious.
Months went by and winter had set in with a vengeance. I settled in for a long winter nap, reading various books on the history of Hot Springs, and generally staying close to home. Then, one early morning I could not sleep and decided to surprise the girls with donuts so I got in my car, backed out of the drive way and just as I came to a stop, there was the old woman walking beside my car. I quickly rolled down the window and said, "If you will allow it, I would be proud to drive you to town, I am going that way..." Without hesitation, she opened the door and got in.
My gosh! My mind was racing with a hundred questions, but somehow my lips failed to work and I just sat there quietly driving the 2 miles to downtown on this cold winter morning. The old woman did not speak either and only nodded when I got to a place downtown where she got out and wandered away.
Even though we had not spoke a single word between us, there was a tenuous bond that had been formed. She trusted me enough to accept a ride. It was a tremendous break-though that made me happy. As she sat rigidly beside me, I felt a strong attachment as if we were somehow connected. I could see the strength of her character deeply etched into the lines and creases of her face and hands. I could smell the earthy scent of her body and I heard the light, slow rhythm of her breath as it misted on the car window. I noticed the design of her tattered old dress was big, colorful but faded flowers. It reminded me of my own mother who loved flowers too and sometimes wore colorful flower dresses. For many days, I could barely think of anything else except how the beautiful white-hair sat beside me.
Unfortunately, my happiness over our first visit, if that is what one might call it, was short lived. I did not see the old woman again all winter. For some reason, I took up trying to play the harmonica and spent time at the pond, out of hear shot of the girls and our pets who may have suffered from my squeaks and howls. Oddly, I also began walking (something I had loathed since marching in the Army). My daily jaunts took me further and further into the surrounding woods and I became familiar with the winding footpaths made by man and animals.
One late evening as I sat at the pond staring at my reflection and thinking about the dark woods and the abundance of water found in this valley, I heard a low wail coming from somewhere north on the mountain. At first I thought it was a dog howling. Listening closer I thought it might be the wind blowing through the narrow gorge. Dismissing both notions I listening harder. The wailing stopped for awhile, but when it began again it sounded more like a human. Standing up, I listened even more intently as I moved a few steps closer to the sound. Then, the wailing sound stopped.
I had dismissed all thoughts about the wailing sound until one evening weeks later when I heard it again. This time I immediately started walking in the direction of the sound, stopping frequently to get a better baring on its location. Then, it stopped again. Throughout that winter, I heard the wailing several times and could not quite pin point its origin. Each time I heard the sound, I quickly walked to the last point where I had a bearing. Nothing. I asked a several neighbors if they had also heard the sounds. Virgie Bryant said, "Oh yes, those stray dogs give me the willies." Her husband, Elgie, disagreed and said the sounds he heard was the wind blowing through the rock crevasses of the valley. No one suggested the sounds might be human.
Spring had come slowly to the valley that year and the wild onions and buttercups were struggling to find light. I had begun my walking regime in the forest again and found it easier walking on the slippery rocks and muddy ground when I pulled my shoes off and went barefoot. I carried an old pair of sandals just in case I came up on patches of sharp novaculite (whetstone) sticking up anywhere.
Taking several days, I explored Indian Mountain located a short distance to the southeast of my home. There are ancient quarries dating back thousands of years and signs of old Indian encampments on Indian Mountain. In the following weeks, I strolled the wide and smooth paths on Hot Springs (Manataka) Mountain and wandered over the thickly wooded hills west of my home. There are no trails, saving those made by our animal cousins, on the rugged hills bordered by Gulpha Gorge Road, Sleepy Valley Road and Highway 7 North. Even though it was the toughest to climb, I often ventured down the road a short ways to the spillway where I crossed Gulpha Creek and ascended the mountain barefoot.
A small dam held back the upper pond at the Becker property on the other side of Sleepy Valley Road only a block or so north of my home. Another small dam created the pond across the road and a third damn backed up water from Gulpha Creek closest to Gulpha Gorge Road, creating a series of three ponds. The Sleepy Valley Improvement Association, built the dams back in the 1950's. I was elected president of the SVIA in 1989 and was reelected to the same position for several years.
One late afternoon I charged out of the house to get away from the telephone and a bevy of people who too often found our living room comfortable enough to spend evening hours several times a week. I was looking for the quickest way to disappear into the woods, so I again crossed the spillway and climbed the mountain heading north. After hiking for over a half-hour or so, I knew that I had passed the Becker Pond the old Sleepy Water spring water plant at Chewaukla Springs below when I came to a small area that was relatively flat and had a sweet little spring flowing down the mountain. I stopped, sat down and sipped a handful of water. When I looked up, I saw the corner of a broken down old shack.
It was getting dark, but obviously, nobody lived in the wooden shack with a tin roof. I was curious, so checked out the surrounding area. Vines and weeds had grown up all around it and any sign of a path had been obliterated long ago by tall bushes. There was no trash or other signs of human habitation. The shack was barely eight feet wide and maybe twelve feet long. It's old weathered boards had turned greenish-black with age and I guessed it was left a lifetime ago by hunters.
As I walked around the cabin, I saw a door and shoved in, but it was either blocked up by something inside or locked. I then noticed a small dirty gray window that was a bit cock-eyed -- probably made by hunters in a hurry. Slowly I made my way around bushes and held my hands cupped around my eyes to get a look-see inside. Just as I put my nose to the glass, an old wrinkled face was looking right a me!
Frightened by the surprise, I jumped back about three feet and yelled to the face, "I'm sorry! I didn't know anyone lives here." The face disappeared and I beat a hasty retreat down the mountain to Sleepy Valley Road.
Sweating from the scary experience and fast pace down the mountain, I got to the road and stopped in my tracks. Suddenly, I realized the face in the window was the old woman who walked in front of my house so many times before. I found a good spot and sat down to contemplate the mystery of the old woman. Then another revelation hit me. The nighttime wailing had come from the old shack hidden on the mountain.
Within a week or so, I swallowed most of my embarrassment and sought to make contact with the old woman again. I waited by the pond for three mornings and then on the fourth day she appeared. Looking at my feet and in a low voice I apologized again for intruding and offered her a piece of cake wrapped in tin foil. I saw her lips crack into an tiny smile and for the first time, she spoke. "Yer tha first one who ever found my place," she said.
Getting to Know Napanee
After that first conversation - a whole two sentences between us, I was able to give her rides into town and we met often on the mountain at a 'sit down' place near the little spring. She did not like to talk much, that was plain, but I learned if I asked a question in the right way, she would respond, however briefly.
Sometimes I used her favorite topic to get her talking and she knew it. Wild herbs, flowers, trees -- anything that grew in the earth -- would bring about quiet discussion and thoughtful instruction. She kept a vegetable and flower garden in a fairly good size plot on a flat area above the lodge where they lived on the side of the mountain. She took me there several times and she could always find a root or two to harvest.
From there our conversations could drift over to crafts she made from plants and stones found in the area. Back in the 1930's and 40's during tourist seasons in Hot Springs, Napanee made colorfully designed weavings and clay pots she sold to tourists as she sat on her blanket under a big tree near Gulpha Gorge Road. At other times, She foraged the forests for food, dyes and crafting materials. All that was gone now. There was no garden near her shack in the woods and climbing around the mountain looking for food plants was far too strenuous for her bent bones.
I do not believe she received any sort of government assistance, so I wondered how she purchased food and other necessities. To be best of my knowledge, She had few friends and her children moved away many years ago. Even though she was bent with age, she was stocky and looked like she ate regularly. Her flower dresses were faded and threadbare, but they always looked clean. So, another mystery presented itself about Napanee Louise Henrietta Gray Horse. Where did she get what little money she had?
A clue might have been located at an old apartment house on Chapel Street where on several occasions I dropped her off near Confederate Square. I never asked who lived there and she probably would not have said anyway.
Over a year had past since our first short conversation at the pond and Napanee only briefly talked about her family. I knew she had been married for many years, they had four children and the family lived in Gulpha Gorge. Up to this point, she did not speak about her life in Hot Springs or times before coming here. She never mentioned her Indian people or why she was living like a hermit. All of it was a mystery.
Regardless of all this, there was a strength of character and wisdom about her that drew me closer. There was a mystic about Napanee that drove my curiosity wild. She was stern and snippy most of the time, but it was easy to overlook her grumpy demeanor because she was such a wonderful teacher. Even though she was guarded and secretive, there was a tenderness that peaked through her stern exterior at times. Once while making my way up to her little shack still a good distance away, I slipped on a rock and scrapped my arm on a rock. Out of nowhere Napanee appeared. She quickly grabbed some leaves, wet them with her spit and rubbed the stinging area briskly turning my arm green. Within seconds the pain was gone. She then wrapped the sore with more leaves and tenderly patted my shoulder as she hummed a native song.
As her student and friend, I grew to respect and love her ways of doing things. She had a deep and abiding 'old way' philosophy of life that can rarely be duplicated today. She held strong opinions, but she was willing to listen too. When I was able to get her talking, I sat down and shut up.
Napanee rarely smiled and did not like my jokes. She cared nothing about the world outside of Manataka and refused to listen when I mentioned anything about local people, politics, or business. Regardless, of her rough exterior, she was beginning to soften and there came a day when she finally opened up about her past.
Most nights before going to bed, it was my habit to read. My library contained hundreds of books on history, botany, politics, science and Indians. I found an interesting mention of an Apache man who once lived in Gulpha Gorge called Benito Altaha Gray Horse. The small snippet got me to wondering if Napanee and this man knew each other.
The next day, I went to the Garland County Historical Society and read several documents referring to Gray Horse. As I was preparing to leave, I met an older gentleman named Marcus Phillips who spoke briefly about Gray Horse saying he was a colorful character in Hot Springs history and there was a great deal more to learn about his past. Over the next two weeks or so I dug into learning more about Benito Gray Horse.
I found only one picture of Gray Horse standing with his daughter and wife, who cradled a baby boy named Geronimo Benito Gray Horse, on her back. The picture gave me all the confirmation I needed. Yes, the young woman in the picture was the same old woman who walks in front of my house.
Sometime later in darkness of early morning, I waited in my driveway for Napanee. When she came into sight, I jumped in my car, started the engine and backed out. I rolled the window down and offered her a ride to town. Without a word she got in and sat silently as I drove off.
While driving through the wooded gorge I quietly said, "You are Gray Horse's woman..." Her head spun around and like daggers, her dark eyes shot at me as a deep scowl came across her face. I then continued, "...and you should be very proud to have walked with such a great man." Suddenly her wrinkled face relaxed and the crack of a tiny smile appeared.
I was proud of my discovery because it answered many questions, but Napanee was not so impressed. She held tightly to her secrets about Benito. As time passed, I discovered new stories about him and often shared these little tidbits, but she seldom responded. She was so tight lipped about him that I had no way of knowing what I heard from folks around town or read in various mentions of his life was fact or myth. Many of the stories conflicted with each other and I did not trust the hazy memories of the old-timers. At the library I found a copy of his obituary and thought I had finally discovered some real facts. I soon discovered that even his obituary was not altogether correct.
His obituary noted that he was buried at a Memorial Park Cemetery located about 11 miles west of the Gray Horse home. One day while driving nearby I drove into the cemetery and spent two hours so looking for this grave before I found it the Rose Hill section. I stood by the grave for nearly an hour contemplating his life and family. I left and returned later that day with sage, corn meal, bee pollen, mullein, cedar boughs, and sweet grass. One by one, I laid the offerings at his feet with prayers and sacred songs.
The First Secret Revealed
Several days later I hiked up to Napanee's shack and found her repairing a pair of sandals. Sitting down on the ground next to her, I waited awhile before whispering that I had gone to Benito's grave and performed ceremony. She dropped the sandal and twine and slowly turned her head.
"You just won't leave it alone will you," she said in an even voice.
"It's important that we remember him in a good way," I said.
"You silly boy. It don't matter no way. He ain't there," said Napanee.
There was a stunned silence, then incredulously I said, "What do you mean he ain't there? Of course he is there, the obituary said so and I saw his name on the grave stone."
"You believe everything you read and see? I said he ain't there and that's that," she said firmly.
"How could that be true Napanee? I mean, I talked to an old man who went to graveside services and even the guy at the cemetery said he was buried there," I pleaded with her.
"Don't matter. I know where my friend rests. I know because we took his body away from the [Salvation] Army in a pull cart the night he died. There was another old dead man there who got his skins [regalia]," Napanee said with tears streaming down her face.
[In 1945 the Salvation Army was located at 300 block of Malvern Road, present day Austin Hotel, about 1/4 mile to a trail leading up the mountain.]
"What!! How could that be? Someone helped you move his body? Who? Where did you take him? This is hard for me to understand. Why did you not allow him to be buried in the cemetery? What did you do with him?"
"His spirit is with the sacred mountain," she quietly said.
"On the mountain? You buried him on the mountain?" I exclaimed.
"Yes, it took us all night and most of the morning to dig his grave in the hard stone of the mountain. We spread the new dirt out and covered his place with stones and brush. I hid in the woods for several days after that cause I feared the whiteys would discover he was gone and would come lookin' for me," she explained.
"Did you attend his funeral? Did you go to the grave at the cemetery?"
"Nope. White folks didn't care much if I was there or not and they thought I was just bein' Indian by stayin' away. They're are gonna talk bad about Indian anyway, so stayin' hid in the woods was not a bad idea anyway."
I remembered the many mornings I followed her down Sleepy Valley Road in the darkness of the early morning and lost her every time. I then realized that she disappeared into the thick overgrowth of the mountain. "You go see him still?, I asked.
"I go there whenever I can," she said.
"Yes, you walk to his place on the mountain in the early mornings before walking over the mountain going to town," I said.
Napanee picked up her sandal and twine signaling the end of our talk about Benito.
While hiking home I stopped several times to think and gaze at the green trees and the blue sky. It was an amazing story for sure. Napanee said Benito's spirit was on the sacred mountain. Up to this time, she had never referred to the Hot Springs Mountain ('Manataka' in her words) as being a sacred place. "What is all that about," I wondered to myself.
Telling the Story
As years passed I was cautious about retelling the story about the burial of Gray Horse. While I had no reservations about the truth of Napanee's story because she was one of the most straightforward, honest person I had ever know. But, I was certain the story would not be accepted by many people and I was also fearful the ugly bureaucrats at the National Park Service, treasure seekers or other odd balls would dig up the mountain looking for Benito.
Years went by and Napanee had vanished years before and it was over two decades later before I first shared the story with family and close friends while telling the Story of Manataka. I first tentatively broached the subject at a summer gathering of 2001 when hundreds of people came to hear the "Story of Manataka" and join in ceremonies and other events.
Smoke from the ceremonial fire hung low over the great stone circle as sacred songs were sung. The mood of the people was reflected by the stunning colors of dancers, color guard flag carriers, and hundreds of people in full regalia. It was a joyful time at Manataka.
All of a sudden the drums stopped and the people grew silent as if a something ominous was about to happen. Turning around to see what might have prompted the great silence, I faced the sacred circle and saw the smoke. The smoke had turned unnaturally bright white and the shape of an old man appeared. There floating about twenty feet in the air was the image of an old Indian smiling. Then, the image in the smoke quickly vanished and the sounds of a new song began. Several people came up to me saying, "Did you see that?" The people talked in small groups about the about the image all afternoon. Several people said that someone took picture of the apparition but I never saw the picture -- except in my dreams I still have to this day.
No one knew the smiling old Indian in the smoke. Some people thought it was calm winds and humidity in the air that caused the smoke to behave like a freak of nature. Others who were not in the immediate vicinity of the sacred circle and had not really seen the image, thought it was our imagination. But, I knew exactly who it was. It was Benito Altaha Gray Horse. After all, his spirit dwells on the sacred mountain just like Napanee said and his bright white image in the smoke was a sign.
Late that night about two or three dozen people sat around a big campfire telling jokes, singing, and drumming. For several hours orange sparks from the fire floated upward and blended with the stars. The bubbling waters of Nowasalon sang and joined with the night birds, tree frogs and crickets creating a beautiful symphony of nature. Someone called out for the Story to be told and I slowly took my normal position in the west. I began by telling only bits and pieces of the Story of Manataka. Something was not right. Something was preventing me from telling the Story from the beginning and moving through its many paths. The people did not seem to mind, but I knew the Story must be told in a prescribed manner, least an important point go unsaid.
While giving the Story to the people gathered, my mind raced up the mountain, down to the sacred waters, and back up to the magnificent Spirit watching us, and suddenly, the words "Benito Gray Horse" escaped my lips. Hesitant stutters tumbled across my lips as I began to tell the "Untold Story of Chief Benito Altaha Gray Horse.
The Gray Horse Story was much longer than I anticipated, but our camp fire listeners were riveted, not a movement among them, not word or a cough. Remembering the smokey image that afternoon, the story ended with Napanee's words, "His spirit is with the sacred mountain."
Napanee Opens Her Heart
Cantankerous, sullen, and obscure are three words that describe one side of our friend Napanee Louise Henrietta Gray Horse. We were continually locked in a battle of wills. She was determined to keep her secrets locked within and I was determined to find the key. She could be argumentative and a cunning adversary turning questions upside down and around without letting go of a single secret. I absolutely knew there were secrets because there were too many unanswered questions.
Another side of Napanee revealed a compassionate, loving and peaceful woman of extraordinary strength. There was no question about the depth of her insight. Some weeks after she told me about burying Gray Horse on the mountain, we sat along the bank of the creek that ran through the gorge and argued about something, I cannot remember what. During the height of the argument, she turned vicious and began spitting out an angry attack that cut to my core.
Instead of standing up, growling back at her and stomping off as I had been known to do in the past, without thinking about it, I absent-mindedly reached into my pocket and found an old C harp. Looking at the harmonica, I remembered it brought calm to me in the past, so I softly played "Amazing Grace".
All signs of anger suddenly fell away from her face to be replaced with a sweet countenance. She said nothing as tears carelessly found they way through the many wrinkles and crevices of her face. Napanee did not exactly smile, but her lips moist with tears bent slightly upwards as she closed her eyes to listen.
We sat silently for a long time listening to the bubbling creek. Napanee got up, moved behind me, and placed one hand on my shoulder and the other on the top of my head. "You play that well, but not as good as Benito. That was one of his favorite songs" she said softy.
Aha!! Another secret about Gray Horse was revealed! I did not know he played the harmonica.
She found a rock slab a bit up from the creek and sat down. "You know he was a great man," she began. For the next three hours she told me about her life with Benito Gray Horse in Hot Springs. My head was swimming with all the information and more questions were popping in and out, but It was getting dark and I bid her a goodnight.
During the months that followed, Napanee talked about her friend often. At times it was like a faucet of water had been turned on and the words flowed like a torrent.
Napanee Louise Henrietta Gray Horse was a sad, lonely woman, but a tiny smile cracked her dried lips and a little light came on in her eyes as she spoke of her champion and companion.
There were two major areas of her life that remained locked behind her lips. The subjects of her past life before marrying Gray Horse and their four children were avoided. I decided not to push her on the issues, knowing if it was intended for me to know, that Spirit would guide us.
Giving Birth to a Star
It was also during this time that my wife, Rebecca gave birth to our daughter, Amanda. The day before she was born, I met Napanee briefly on the trail near her shack. Napanee said matter-of-factly, "Your wife will have a baby girl very soon." I never mentioned by wife's pregnancy to Napaneee and I knew the two had never met. She must have observed my wife outside our home from a place in the woods, but how did she know our daughter would be born soon? And, how did she know the baby would be a girl?
"When your daughter is born, go outside and look up. Give thanks and name her from the vision you see," instructed Napanee.
The next day I was a nervous wreck. Thankfully, Rebecca's mother had come to be with us at the hospital. Even though I was shaking and reluctant to go into the birthing room, doctors and nurses made certain I was present. After going inside I washed up and was rigged up with a gown, gloves, cap and booties. My gosh, I felt like I was having the baby!
Rebecca got angry with me when I refused to sign legal documents that would forgive doctors and the hospital if they did something wrong or they gave her tainted blood. She got mad again when I kept nervously repeating the same words, "You will be okay" a dozen times or more. Finally, the moment came when Amanda was born. She was perfect in every way. It was a glorious moment.
Remembering the words of Napanee, I went outside the hospital and found a quiet place to pray and give thanks. As I looked up, it was not a vision I saw, but a big, beautiful star. After looking at the glistening star for a few minutes, I realized it was the powerful Morningstar. Amanda Morningstar was born.
A week or so later and after the girls came home from the hospital, I went to the shack and found Napanee sitting outside with a big pile of green beans. Before I could say anything, she looked up and said, "Both your girls are doing fine and the name you have chosen is a good one - a bright light in the darkness of heaven." To this day, I am awed by Napanee's blessed insight.
Learning the Secrets
Our first discussion about the name of the sacred Valley of the Vapors, began with the words she used to describe water. We found it curious that she referred to the hot springs that flowed on the other side of the mountain as No-waa-sal-on - Breath of Healing and also called the cold-water stream that flowed in front of her old home by the same name. At the time we thought the name Nowasalon was a fitting name for the hot waters because the meaning of the word obviously referred to the vapors that escaped from the hot springs -- but the cold water stream emitted no steam -- or Breath of Healing. We asked her more about the name and special gifts of the sacred waters.
As usual, it seemed like an eternity before she answered my question. I learned it was best to remain patient and respectful while waiting for an answer, even though this wise elder sometimes did not respond to my incessant questions for weeks.
After staring into my eyes for several minutes she responded, "...One of the seven waters of this creek [now called Gulpha Creek] comes from a place of great healing within the Earth Mother... The other waters [hot springs] heal the body, but these waters heal the spirit," she said. After a lengthy discussion over a period of several days about how the waters heal the body and spirit, Napanee spoke about the names of other places around the area.
Napanee said the origin of the word Nowasalon is not from the Apache language, but comes from the ancient people of the South who were once the Keepers of Manataka.
Acting on her stories about the healing waters, I began exploring the source of the various springs that flowed into Nowasalon creek. The process of isolating and following the water up the mountain and through the dales and valleys was not easy. Often a rivulet of surface spring water disappeared back into the ground and had to be traced further up the mountain. Just when I thought the source had been found, I located another tiny brook across or up the hill hiding amongst rock slabs or under bushes.
On several occasions, after returning to a search area the next day or several days later, I forgot the location of a tiny brook I was following, so I began to mark the trails with orange tape. That worked well until some hunter or hiker decided to remove my trail markers. From then on, I used only natural markers like stones, twisted vines or marks on a tree.
Many hours were spent on each trek into the woods searching for sources. The hours turned into weeks and months of searching. Nearly two years past by as I searched for the seven springs. I believe six were found. But the seventh eluded me. To this day, over twenty-five years later and dozens of return trips, I never found the seventh spring -- the source of the healing spirit waters.
Over next several years, Napanee imparted, bit by bit, secrets of the other "healers" elements found at Manataka.
Napanee said there are seven healing elements gifted by the Creator to humans and other animals. Earth medicine, including all plants and stones on the earth is commonly believed to be the broadest and most numerous among the 'healers', but this is not necessarily so.
One of the most interesting of the Earth Medicines is what is known today as "Manataka Healing Clay."
For thousands of years, indigenous people of Turtle Island used the benefits of the healing clay for a number of external and internal ailments and to enhance physical and emotional health. Medicine people of many tribes traveled great distances to obtain the blessings of the special clay.
In the old days, Indians used clay from many parts of the country in religious ceremonies as a body paint. It is said the clay was used as a transformation masque. That is, when the clay was applied, it created gateways through which energy, healing and information may pass. As an act of primal urge or desire, the body was completely covered in clay as a way to discover unknown qualities of being and human essence.
When properly processed, a special preparation of the healing clay was used to draw out of the skin poisons such as spider bites, wasp, bee and ant stings. The special clay also drew out severe skin irritants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. For a people who lived outdoors most of their lives, it was great!
When an Indian woman was pregnant, specially prepared clay was rolled into tiny balls and taken internally on a daily basis. The results were amazing! Both mother and baby grew stronger and healthier with fewer birth complications.
The people also used the clay for external deep cleansing for detoxifying the skin. Some clay worked better than others because not all clay is alike. The clay found only at Manataka is charged with a unique blend of natural ingredients that is excellent for both cleansing and healing.
Napanee taught me the special process used to refine and purify the healing clay. It has been a blessing to my family, friends and visitors to Manataka for many years.
Several years ago, after hearing about the Manataka Healing Clay, a New York cosmetic firm contacted me and sent a representative who wanted to buy the formula and process used to make the clay. The woman pleaded for the rights to make the Healing Clay with a promise to pay me thousands of dollars. My answer was no. No amount of money can buy the secret. I cannot allow a gift of the Creator to be commercialized, altered or "improved" by money grabbers. After that incident, I became very cautious about who would be allowed to learn the process.
Life As An Apache Warrior
Benito was born into the Chiricahua Apache tribe around 1850 and spent his entire childhood learning the ways of war. His family were constantly hunted by the U.S. Army who prevented them from their traditional farming and hunting lifestyle. At every opportunity, the Army burned their crops and homes, so the Apache became raiders and thieves in order to survive. From 19 years old to age 36, he served as a warrior with Apache Chief Geronimo and became a band leader.
According to Napanee, Benito's life as an Apache warrior ended when he was captured by the U.S. Calvary and kept in an open stockade at Fort Pickens for many weeks without much food or water. If Benito made the mistake of sleeping too close to the stockade wall, soldiers laughingly stabbed bayonets through open slats in the stockade wall piercing his body. He scooped dirt on the wounds to stop the bleeding. He carried the scars from those attacks the rest of his life.
Gray Horse, along with others
from his band were then moved far away from their land of birth to
Fort Marion, a
'reeducation' camp in Florida. While there, Benito won favor
among army officers by quickly learning to speak English and
encouraging younger warriors to walk the path of peace.
The Journey Home
This is an unverified story that allegedly occurred after the capture of Geronimo and his band of Apaches by the U.S. Army. The story alleges Gray Horse was on the train with Geronimo as the prisoners were sent by train to a Florida prison camp.
In 1886, 434 Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches were captured earlier in the year and were loaded on a cattle train headed for Florida. Later that year, Apache leader Geronimo, Gray Horse and thirty-six Indian "war criminals" including six children were loaded onto a heavily-guarded train.
Several days into their long, hot journey, Geronimo noticed that Gray Horse had barely moved a muscle while his eyes were focused sharply between a slit in the boxcar siding.
Geronimo asked, "What are you doing?"
"Counting mountains, so we can find our way back home!," said Benito.
A couple of days past and Geronimo noted that Gray Horse had become distraught. "What is wrong brother?," asked the Apace leader. "I fell asleep and lost count! How can we ever find our home again?, Gray Horse cried.
Geronimo then looked at his friend and said, "There is no need to be upset little brother. Simply start counting again from where were are now. At least we can find our way part of the way home."
At that moment, the movement of the train came to an halt. Looking out the Apache saw they were at a train station to load water and supplies. A sign near the station read, "Alabama".
Gray Horse counted mountains and noted physical landmarks for the rest of the journey. And, he remembered the place were he received wise words from his elder.
The epic train trip, according to Geronimo's grandson, called Little Foot by his tribe, named Willie by his "White Eyes" captors, traveled through Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. Geronimo and Naiche (son of Cochise) surrendered to General Nelson Miles in 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, near the Arizona-New Mexico line just north of the border with Mexico. It was the fourth time Geronimo had surrendered and the last. With them were 16 men, 14 women and six children. The band was taken to Fort Bowie and by train to Florida as prisoners of war. There is no evidence to support the idea that Gray Horse was on the same train with Geronimo.
Life in the Fort Marion prison camp was horrific. Many Indians died of malaria, dysentery, hunger, and other diseases. Prisoners were beaten and abused. Geronimo was transferred out of the camp to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
A group of Quaker's from Pennsylvania were visiting Indian prisoner-of-war camps all over the country when they met Benito. They liked the intelligent, good-looking Apache. He spoke some English and they like his affable smile so they decided to offer him an opportunity for an education in Pennsylvania.
The Quakers sent Gray Horse to the Carlisle School, but authorities there would not allow him to attend classes because of his age. Instead, school authorities placed him in a large dormitory to supervise the children. His obituary says, "...At Fort Marion, Florida he was selected scoutmaster of a group of Indian boys and sent to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where he became patron of the boy's dormitory.
Like the children, his hair was cut, he was forced to wear white man's clothing, and he was not allowed to speak any language except English.
The Indian children at Carlisle School looked up to Gray Horse and he helped them to secretly maintain their Indian ways and beliefs. In exchange, they taught him how to read and write.
While at Carlisle Indian School, Gray Horse decided to become a lawyer because he felt that white man's law could be used to help his people. He worked hard reading all the books available to him and eventually he earned a scholarship from the Quakers to attend college.
Benito prepared for college at Carlisle and attended a state college. It is rumored and not confirmed that Benito earned a degree in law at Harvard University with the sponsorship of the Quakers.
According to Napanee, As a new lawyer, Benito traveled back to Apache country after his graduation to lend assistance to his people. The Apaches did not know him. He had changed and became 'too white' during his long absence. He dressed like a white man and talked like a white man. The Apache rejected him and any assistance he might give. The people had changed too. They were no long a proud and independent people and they were living like wounded dogs, biting at their sores and each other.
Gray Horse attempted to find employment as an attorney in the southwest but found the task impossible. No one took him seriously. The dominant white culture did not want an Indian lawyer. Rejection by his people and white communities would mark him for many years to come.
Gray Horse wandered around the southwest doing odd jobs to stay alive but his fortune turned when he used his language skills to become a successful trader between Mexico and the United States and the local tribes.
He established business links in many southwest cities and made his home at the seaside port of Galveston Bay, Texas. There he acquired warehouse facilities to handle growing stocks of imported and domestic goods and purchased a large home. Still, life was not easy for Benito as discrimination against Indians, especially Apaches was at an all time high in Texas. But, he dressed in whiteman's clothes and spoke excellent English so he often passed the racial tests. Regardless of frequent set-backs and racial attacks, Gray Horse was admired by many and his fortune began to grow.
With his career securely established, Gray Horse met and married a lovely white woman (name unknown). Soon the couple had two sons and they purchased a larger home at Galveston Bay near the warehouse district. For the first time in many years, Benito had a family of his own.
All this ended when Gray Horse and his eldest son went on a business trip to Dallas.
In the mid-1
Later, his eldest son later became an aviator and was killed in World War I in 1917.
He wandered the country for a time before finally coming to grips with the reality of his situation. He could not practice law because no one wanted to hire an Indian lawyer. He was in debt and could not restart his trading business. He could not return to his people and did not feel comfortable living in the city. Finally, he made a very important decision.
When faced with adversity, Benito went inside himself to face his most difficult fears and discover the strength and curiosity that had always driven him to success in the past. He decided to go to Europe to discover the roots of the people who invaded his country and took away all that he knew.
Becoming A 'Healer Man'
Benito found life in Europe in the late 1800's even more difficult and in some ways more hostile than the American Southwest. People were polarized between the very rich or very poor. They lived either on beautiful estates or in the squalor of the inner cities or in hovels in the countryside. There was a substantial merchant or gentry class, but their living conditions, diet, and amenities were lacking. The people were rigid, harsh, and unforgiving. He saw the majority of people lived in cramped, dirty conditions. Plagues of sickness were not uncommon. People confronted him as if he were a rare caged animal in a zoo, or they were more resentful and bigoted than their cousins in America.
Regardless of these conditions, he studied their language, history and sciences. He attended many seminars and open meetings as he worked at a variety of odd jobs. After a time, Benito became restless and wanted to do something about human misery he saw around him. He knew the disease and pestilence that killed millions of American Indians came from the squalor of Europe. He learned first-hand why Europeans and their American descendents were filled with fear, thoughts of death, and guilt.
It was during this time he decided to study medicine. "I wanted to become a healer man," Benito told his wife Napanee many years later.
Gray Horse studied long hours in the evening as he labored at menial jobs during the day. It is rumored that he was given an apprenticeship by a London physician and later under the sponsorship of his old friends, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, he attended medical college in Germany. Benito applied his knowledge of Indian herbal medicine and experiences as a warrior to his new profession.
After receiving his medical degree, Gray Horse wandered around Europe doing odd jobs to keep himself alive. Europeans did not want an Indian witch doctor. At the age of 48, while he was in Spain, the Spanish American War broke out in 1898 and he enlisted in the Spanish Army as a doctor. Gray Horse did not like the American Army and volunteered for service in Cuba.
At some point early in the war, Gray Horse realized the Spanish would be defeated. The American blockade around Cuba, superior equipment and aid from indigenous people were having a devastating affect on the Spanish army. Benito's Indian instincts then took over and he began to train small groups of soldiers in the art of guerrilla warfare - Indian style.
The results of his training and leadership were almost immediately felt by the invading American Army. Hit and run ambushes, sabotage raids, hostage-taking and booby-traps were all taking a toll on the powerful American Army and at one point a withdrawal was contemplated by American commanders. But, it was too late. The Spanish were losing in the Philippines and the cost of the war was too great for the fragile Spanish government.
The European Gray Horse
After the war, Gray Horse returned to Spain where he was quickly recognized by Spanish officials grateful for his medical services. However, they were more interested in his military expertise. Gray Horse was hired as a military consultant to teach Spanish troops in the art of Indian guerrilla warfare. In secret, the government gave Benito several assistants and a villa with servants where he began writing a training manual and conferred with top military leaders. The Spanish paid Gray Horse handsomely and his reputation began to spread.
The ladies of Spanish aristocracy also took note of Gray Horse, who was not only a medical doctor, lawyer, and military consultant, but he was also tall, dark, and exotically handsome. The wives of generals and royalty invited Gray Horse to speak at luncheons and evening parties. The ladies were thrilled when he was called on to recite his original Indian poetry and they loved his stories of the 'wild west'.
Soon Gray Horse's reputation moved beyond Spanish borders. His name and exploits were well known among nearly every strata of European high society. After a time the French sent an emissary to offer him a military consulting job for double the amount paid by his current employer. The jealous English government upped the offer to include a tax-free estate outside London complete with servants and horses. The Germans were the most aggressive in bidding for his services and they promised to pay him in gold bullion if he would give them exclusive use of his expertise. After a brief visit to Germany, Gray Horse decided he did not like the Huns whom he could see were feverishly preparing from World War I. Eventually, Gray Horse decided to return to the England and took up the privileged life of a rich English - American Indian gentleman.
Friends and people he met while performing menial jobs in England years before were welcomed to his estate for American Indian-style cookouts. A strange mixture of cooks, carpenters, military officers, doctors, and socialites were a common site at the Gray Horse manor.
A Strong Wind Blows
As Gray Horse became an immensely popular guest at European dinner parties, his circle of powerful political and military friends widened. He owned a villa in Spain, an estate outside London, stocks in a variety of enterprises and healthy bank accounts. Royal ladies of court clamored for his 'medical opinion' and at afternoon socials his musical talents were appreciated by the elite of Europe.
Rich and famous with powerful friends and a bevy of lady friends, Gray Horse was not without amusements, but regardless of the benefits of position, he became restless and sought solitude whenever possible.
Then one day, Gray Horse disappeared. No one could find him anywhere in his usual haunts and a search throughout the country was begun. After several weeks, the government became alarmed and pointed a finger at the Germans alleging Gray Horse had been kidnapped.
A newspaper conjectured that Benito Gray Horse had been killed. After all, a person with his position would not voluntarily disappear leaving all his wealth and thus foul play was the only reasonable answer.
Investigators then discovered that Gray Horse was last seen near the docks at the River Thames. Benito had been to the bank and was carrying a great deal of money in two large satchels when he wandered into the dock area infested with drunken sailors, scalawags, thieves and muggers. Because no trace of Gray Horse could be found, it was surmised that Gray Horse has been robbed of his money, killed and his body was dumped into the Thames where it washed out to sea.
Weeks and then months went by with no further word on the whereabouts of Benito Gray Horse. His friends and associates in the government were saddened by his disappearance but there was little anyone could do.
Years went by and thoughts of Gray Horse in the minds of Europeans faded away in a mist of time. It would be decades later before they found out what happen to the handsome, rich and articulate Chiricahua Apache Indian.
Benito loved his new found notoriety and the luxurious life of the country gentleman he had become. He loved his work as a warrior-teacher. He loved his women and the company of many assorted friends. He loved having access to the rich and powerful of Europe. Sharing his music, poetry and stories with friends was always a great pleasure for Benito. He had many reasons to not to leave.
According to Napanee, Benitos' friends and associates did not know that he had begun to experience nightmares and waking dreams before his disappearance. The dreams flooded his sleep and haunted him during the day for months. His recollections of the dreams, told many years later to his wife, Napanee, were unsettling and interfered with his daily activities. Oddly, the dreams did not concern bloody battles or other dreadful events in his life, but the visions took him to a place he had never been. "A thousand ancient spirits came to him every day," said Napanee. They spoke to him in languages he did not know, but he understood they were telling him to seek the place shown in his dreams.
Finally, Gray Horse could not stand the dreams any longer. He decided after a great deal of argument with himself to leave Europe and find the eerie place of his dreams. Not wanting to be followed, he secretly packed personal belongings and mementoes in several crates and had them shipped overseas weeks before his departure. He booked passage on a ship using a false name and on the day of his departure, he went to his bank and withdrew a large sum of money and converted some of it into gold. Late that night he walked to the waiting ship and boarded.
A strong wind of spirit had blown him away from his opulent life-style and now a new journey and a new chapter in his life had begun.
A New Life Begins
After arriving back in the United States, Benito took a long train ride to Arizona. He toured pockets of Chiricahua Nde people living in Southern Arizona and Mexico before going to the reservation in New Mexico.
In his travels Benito did not have much luck finding relatives and former friends, but he did locate a family he knew about from the old days. While visiting with the family, Benito met Napanee, a young Apache girl whom he hired as a cook and servant. After several weeks, the couple fell in love and were married, Apache style.
Benito was now in his sixties and Napanee was fourteen.
Gray Horse gave cash money to Napanees' family as a wedding present and spread more goodwill among villagers. Finally fulfilling a mission he dreamed about many years ago, Gray Horse quietly donated thousands of dollars to various Apache enterprises, purchased medical equipment for an Indian clinic and building materials for the tribe.
Gray Horse then loaded his new wife and their belongings into a wagon and set off on a long journey east.
It has been rumored that Benito and Napanee briefly hooked up with an Indian Wild West show during their journey. In her 1991 poem, "An Indian is An Indian" Verna Lee Hinegardner, the Poet Laureate of Arkansas, says,
"...While traveling with a medicine show, he met his young wife, Princess Napanee..."
This is not a correct description of how they met according to Napanee's account, however, the medicine show story may or may not be true because Napanee never mentioned it, but there are many things Napanee did not talk about. Benito sometimes called his youngest daughter, Napanee, Princess to tourists, but it is doubtful he referred to his wife by the same endearment.
Napanee recalled the hardships and many weeks it took for them to travel through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas by wagon. She cried often and did not completely trust her new husband or the white people they met along the way. The journey was the most frightening thing young Napanee had ever experienced.
Her first sight of an automobile loudly chugging its way down a dirt road in Texas, was horrific. Regardless of what Benito did to calm her, childhood stories of a man-eating monster gnawed at her. "...the monster even had hold of man inside it," laughingly said Napanee. Many new sights, sounds and people along the long road frightened her and to make matters worse, she did not speak English. She did not like the butt-bumping wagon, so she walked most of the way except when she was ill and too tired.
Among the many adversities experienced along the way, their horse died in Texas and later a flash flood washed away many of their belongings. Once their wagon had to be replaced after tumbling down an embankment. Benito and Napanee camped in the open during most of the trip and put up a small tipi lodge when necessary.
Traveling along the old Southwest Trail (Now Arkansas Interstate 30) they stopped at Malvern after meeting a family who offered them a hot meal and a spare room. When they arrived in Hot Springs, they pitched their lodge outside of town and later found a small apartment near downtown.
Because people gave her long stares and sneers, Napanee was self-conscience about her attire. Benito wasted no time in taking her to a dress store. Nothing she tried on fit right or they were too frilly, had patterns of squares, polka dots, or stripes -- none very appealing to an Indian girl. Finally, Benito found a rack of light cotton dresses with big flower patterns. Trying one on, Napanee stood for Benito's approval with a smile on her face. Flower dresses became her trademark attire when in public.
A new life in Hot Springs had begun.
The Baby With No Name
According to Napanee, shortly some time after arriving in Hot Springs Benito purchased private land on Manataka (Hot Springs) Mountain surrounded by the National Park.
He took their wagon apart and built a bridge across the creek to a large flat area where they built a hogan. Slightly higher on the property on another flat plot of ground, Napanee put in a garden. On a third flat tear up the mountain, Benito constructed a dance circle, and a sweat lodge.
Napanee spent weeks thoroughly exploring the surrounding forest and marked certain areas plentiful with herbs, food plants, and materials needed for household uses. Benito spent a lot of time on the other side of the mountain in town. Napanee said he was preoccupied with talking to the white people of Hot Springs.
Soon she became pregnant with her first child. "I was really scared about having the baby because my grandmothers were far away and could not help me, I had no one else here, and I was uncertain what to do," said Napanee.
Benito was calm and helpful throughout her pregnancy. He did several of her heavy daily chores and made certain there was plenty of food. But, Napanee was homesick, physically miserable in the summer heat and grew more emotional as weeks past. Napanee once picked a fight with Benito and threw him out of their lodge. Benito never wandered far away, always keeping an attentive eye on his wife. After several days she allowed him back inside, but would not allow him to touch her.
"I yelled at him a lot that summer and fall, but he was always nice to me. He was a good husband and father," Napanee remembered.
When the baby's time came, Napanee's labor was easier than she thought it would be. She attributed the smooth pregnancy and labor to the "healing clay" Benito mixed up for her. "He made little balls out of the clay and told me to take one every morning and night and that's how come I did so good," she said.
Benito and Napanee were so proud and happy about their new healthy black-haired baby girl they laughed and giggled together for hours on end.
A few days later in mid-November, a snow storm dumped about five inches of snow followed by heavy ice on their lodge. During a break in the storm, Benito decided to retrieve a cash of food supplies stored at a large water spring about a quarter mile away. Napanee decided to go along to help carry things so she wrapped the baby up in a cradle board and together the little family began walking. On the way, Napanee found some Ashwagandha root, also known as winter cherry or Indian ginseng, and spent an hour or so digging some up.
On the way back as they neared their home, Napanee suddenly stopped and listened. She heard fast footsteps crunching the ice. Benito heard it too. Together, in Indian fashion, they stooped behind bushes and listened. Not speaking a word, Benito softly put their supplies down in the snow and crept forward following the direction of the footsteps. In a moment she heard him cry out in Apache "Kunh! Kunh!" As she ran, she saw the flames coming from her lodge.
Benito and Napanee could not reconstruct new shelter for several days after the fire and in the meantime their newly born child died of pneumonia. According to Napanee, National Park employees were seen snooping around their dwelling several days prior to the fire and the tracks of two men wearing boots were followed past a bend in the road to where a vehicle was parked. The identity of the people who burned their lodge may not ever be known for certain, but Napanee was convinced. For the rest of her days, she carried anger about the fire.
Hot Springs National Park employees made no excuses for their unofficial displeasure about the "dirty, stinking, dumb Indians" in Gulpha Gorge. Even though the Gray Horse family owned the land, the National Park Service resented the Gray Horse family and wanted them out. But, that was not going to happen for nearly two decades -- until after Benito's death in 1945.
Unlike Napanee who was openly hostile toward employees of the National Park Service, Benito never allowed the heartache and anger about the fire to surface in public. But, he was adamant in his decision to never allow the bureaucrats to drive him away. National Park employees were angry with Gray Horse because they felt he treated the mountain like his personal sanctuary. When he took visitors on walking tours across the mountain trails, they tried to find ways to stop him. When he started telling stories of the sacred mountain and performing ceremonies, they often harassed and threatened him.
The bigots wearing uniforms did not know the real Benito Gray Horse, at least not for many years. In their wildest dreams, they never guessed that he was a lawyer, doctor, a wealthy government consultant and a true warrior. While they wallowed in their self-importance and pettiness, he made discrete friends in many areas of the community and quietly formed liaisons with business and political leaders who interceded on his behalf. The Gray Horse family was to become a permanent feature of the sacred Manataka Mountain - firmly in the middle of the National Park.
Half a century later Napanee sat with her sewing as I trudged up to her shack on the mountain. I brought a few vegetable and fruit and was washing them in an old tin tub when it began to snow lightly outside. The snow reminded me of the story about the fire she told weeks earlier, so I asked, "What was your first baby's name?"
Without looking up, Napanee said, "We did not have a chance to perform her naming ceremony before she left us. Her name is in my heart and there is no need to speak it now."
The baby with no name rests on the sacred Manataka along with her father.
Hot Springs Reacts to Gray Horse and family
Napanee says, "Benito was an educated man who loved people and all creation."
Mrs. Gray Horse was sad as she recalled the early years when local people were often abusive and called them 'dirty' or 'dumb' Indians. It was only after it was rumored that Gray Horse may have been wealthy that the locals began to show respect. She recalled times when she was harassed by boys when she went in to town for supplies. Some merchants refused to sell to her. In those days, she did not speak English well compounding their problems.
Twice, their hogan was burned and their home was plundered many times as her husband was gone and she was foraging in the surrounding woods.
To supplement their limited income, Napanee made craft items made from materials gathered from the nearby forest. She spread blankets under a large tree near the road there sold her handiwork. Tourist buses came by almost daily and Benito sometimes boarded the buses to tell a short story and show off his daughters.
While living on the sacred Manataka mountain, Napanee and Benito Gray Horse had two more daughters, Teewanee and Napanee, and one son, Geronimo Benito Gray Horse. It is said all three children suffered racial humiliations and harassment from students, sometimes teachers, and parents while attending public school in Hot Springs. The continual bigotry had a lasting affect on the children and they left Hot Springs after high school. It is said the son moved to Oklahoma and other places.
Rumors persist that grandchildren of Teewannee and Napanee are living in Arkansas.
Life After Benito Crossed Over
Written in ink on the photo "Chief Bonito Altaha age 90 yrs - Chiricahua Apache - Bowie, Arizona". Photo courtesy of Raphaėl Ponce, 02-10-12
Napanee was lost after her best friend when he went to the spirit world. The children were gone and she spent a great deal of time sitting by his grave on the mountain. She built an altar near the pole in the center of his old dance circle that was mostly grown up with brush. At 95, Benito did not dance during the last months of his life but never failed to perform ceremony each day in the sacred circle before he became too sick. She laid small mementos from a life past and various medicines belonging to her and Benito on the altar.
She was praying at the altar one morning when she heard a vehicle pull up on the other side of the creek. Walking quickly down the path, she saw it was two Park Rangers and a man she did not know. She squatted down and hid behind a rock outcropping and bushes and watched them. They walked around her land for sometime talking in low voices before moving back to their car. "What right did they have coming on to her land?", she asked herself.
The same Park Rangers came to her land several time during the next few weeks, but she never spoke with them. She was afraid of them. They were up to something, she did not know what.
Sometime later Napanee found herself without a home and land. This was another painful episode in her life and she refused to speak about how she lost her home.
In the early fifties, the Butkus family of Cicero, Illinois built a summer home on the property. During the 1930s and 40s, Mr. Butkus was a business manager for the Teamsters Union in Chicago and Salmone Butkus, his wife, owned a funeral home in Cicero. Each summer and often during the thoroughbred horse race season at Oaklawn Park, the Butkus family entertained Chicago friends and relaxed in their new home in the woods. Mrs. Butkus planted non-indigenous flowers around the house and Mr. Butkus built a new bridge over the creek and cleared a road across a low spot across the creek.
Several years later, Mr. Butkus had a concrete memorial teepee built behind their home to honor Gray Horse. The spirit of Gray Horse came to Mr. Butkus several times and it was after one of those visits that Butkus was prompted to construct the teepee to help ward off any ill feelings. Butkus constructed a small circle inside the teepee and placed an altar along one side.
The Hot Springs National Park
Service falsely claims the concrete teepee was built as a tourist business.
This is a ridiculous claim because the Butkus family shunned tourists and
visitors throughout their time living at Gulpha Gorge.
In the meantime, Napanee built a small shack in the forest not far from the old home place. It was accessible only by well-hidden paths. She did not want visitors and discouraged anyone from finding her nest by selectively using different paths according to the time of the year or weather. During winter, she took a path covered with rock slabs so as not to leave a trail on soft ground. In the summer, each time she came and went from her shack, she traveled several paths, allowing broken grass to grow back before she went that way again. She came and went either in the very early morning hours or in the dark of night. Even neighbors who lived within a quarter mile of her home for many years never knew of the hideaway.
More Secrets Revealed By Napanee Gray Horse
I once asked why she referred to the Hot Springs mountain as "Ma-na-ta-ka" and what does the word mean.
Napanee said the word for the sacred mountain came from the "ancient ones from the South," and it means the Place of Peace, or more literally, the Unbroken Circle. Napanee Gray Horse explained that an old Indian woman, who lived deep in the woods near the river at Caddo Gap, came to see Benito three or four times in the late 1930's accompanied by several locals who all presented gifts to the Gray Horse family. Napanee liked the old woman immediately and they sat talking for many hours during each of the old woman's three day visits. The old woman's friends slept at a rooming house in town while the old woman slept on blankets placed on the ground outside the Gray Horse home.
According to Napanee, the old woman's people were all gone. They once lived in a small village on the banks of the Caddo River, but over time many died and others moved south to join with Caddo people or assimilated with local mixed white-Indian families. The Old Woman told Napanee and Benito stories of her people whom she called Sun People of Tula. The old woman was the last of her people to carry the ancient knowledge. Benito did not write down any of her stories and Napanee could not remember but bits and pieces of the images described by the old woman. The old woman spoke English better than Napanee and sometimes spoke to her husband in a language Napanee did not recognize, but Benito understood. The old Indian woman said her ancestors spoke the word Manataka during their prayers and passed down stories of the sacred mountain. She said her people came from a land far to the south and spoke a language she could only partially remember. The old woman told of a temple used for ceremonies by her ancestors that was in the shape of a pyramid and a hot spring bubbled up on the floor in the center of the temple. The old woman was most interested in making sure the Gray Horse family understood the importance of keeping the Manataka sacred. The old woman told Napanee it would be her task to pass along the wisdom of the sacred mountain.
After several years of learning the name of the mountain, its waters, stones and plants, our curiosity about the "Seven Healers" of Manataka became overwhelming. To quiet our internal clamor to know, Napanee gave 'assignments' or tasks that were to be performed before she would share their secrets. In other words, she was forcing this student to earn the right to the knowledge. She once chided us for calling the Seven Healers 'secrets'. "Because you don't know somethin' it is not a reason to call it secret. There is nothin' secret in nature," she scolded.
One assignment among many was to 'feel' the mountain on hands and knees in the rugged terrain off the walking paths -- in the day time and in the dark of night -- for several days. It made no difference to her that bloody and sore knees often interrupted the lesson. Another was to collect seeds from as many plants and trees that could be found in specific areas she pointed out. Laying flat in the bone-chilling waters of the creek for hours while meditating became a regular purification ritual. In the winter, sitting on a particular windy flat rock overlook without food, water or a blanket for hours at a time was a exercise that became oddly enjoyable -- allowing the worries and cares of every day life to escape consciousness to be replaced with silence of the mind. Many times, the assignments made no immediate sense and frustration was a frequent companion. The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges were taking their toll, but there was little doubt that Napanee Gray Horse was a wise old woman on a mission.
It cannot be said that the 'secrets' of the Seven Healers came directly from the mouth of the old mentor. She intended it to be that way. It is the Indian way to teach by allowing students to learn for themselves by doing. The realization that something inside the mind and heart of this student had changed came like a bolt of lightening striking the earth one crisp spring morning.
Napanee watched from a distance as we emerged from the creek and sloshed up the bank. Unexpectedly, a lonely, wispy plant struggling for life between two boulders whispered for water, so without questioning the tiny voice, our legs straddled the plant allowing water to gently drip over its leaves down into the barest amount of dirt in the crevice below.
Turning around to begin a trek up the sacred mountain, another small voice came from under a rock out-cropping that said, "Sunlight please. Give me light please." Again, without hesitation a few of it's cousins were bent to each side allowing rays of sunlight to touch the scrawny leaves.
Then a few minutes later while climbing but a few feet off the path up the steep mountainside, deep voices of the stone people spoke saying, "we have stories to tell, stop and listen." So, again without question, a moss-covered flat stone offered itself and the vibrations of the stone people began. Visions of their slow, strong words flowed through us like the wind bringing messages from another place and time.
After several hours, the morning vanished under the direct sunlight overhead and suddenly the realization of what happened hit our mind, body and soul in a rush. By listening with another part of this being, communication with the plant and stone people took place! Oh my! How could this have happened? Was it hallucinations? The power of suggestion from some unknown source? What was happening?
Looking up, it was startling to see Napanee staring with a slight crack of a grin on her wrinkled old face. She turned around and faded into the forest.
Many days or maybe a week or so later, she was sitting in front of her shack when a soft spring rain began. She did not seem to mind as the rain silently soaked through her clothes and darkened her white silvery hair. She sensed the anxiety that welled-up inside her student and was threatening to explode. As if by instinct, she reached out and captured a single drop of water and carefully placed the drop on our forehead. Like magic, all the tension of the past few days vanished. Looking up at her tender dark eyes, questions about the shocking revelation of a few days before faded away. A calm and silent knowing replaced the disquiet of our runaway imagination. A beautiful little song began to escape our lips and the rain came down hard.
There is no certainty about when or where the realization of the 'secrets' began to unfold. She often spoke to the water as if it were alive. Seeing and feeling the depth of her kind words given to the great purifier of life, it was not difficult to fall into a silent peace within, and the student became aware of the song of life sang by the water people. Learning the most rudimentary ways and power of the water people took several more years and that search for understanding has not ceased to this day, over two decades later.
About four years ago we read about amazing studies conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto of Japan who discovered that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them. According Emoto's website, http://www.masaru-emoto.net/, he found that water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors. The implications of this research create a new awareness of how we can positively impact the earth and our personal health. Dr. Emoto's work has been labeled as 'pseudoscience' by some, but there is no doubt he stumbled across the 'secret' of the water people known to American Indians for thousands of years.
Healing Clay, Water, Air...
The wind is powerful medicine when used properly. Used improperly it can become like a big tornado inside a small box. Representative of American Indian spirituality, the 4,500 year-old Medicine Wheel depicted wind as one of the four sacred elements along with water, fire and earth long before the Greeks or Chinese discovered the importance of the four elements. The Sacred Hoop is largely symbolic, yet it offers practical tools for the study of astronomy and the performance of ritual, healing and teaching. The Sacred Hoop symbolizes one's individual journey to find direction and purpose in life and represents the Circle of Life and at the center of the hoop is the Creator of All Things. There is no doubt that wind is a powerful element of nature, but in what ways can it be defined as medicine?
Depending on the season of the year and
the time of day, the wind blows from the four sacred directions at Manataka.
The air is freshest at the top of the sacred mountain as the wind is in constant
motion removing the old while replacing it with the new. Napanee was
physically unable to climb all the way to the top, at least not very often,
but she taught about making new air and ways of the wind by pointing to the
birds and tops of trees. Napanee said that 99% of the mass of living cells
contain oxygen among other things like hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur and
phosphorus. She also said 99%of the molecules inside living cells
are water molecules. According to Napanee, oxygen acts as a messenger to
American Indians have long held the idea that the wind is a messenger - both a physical and spiritual messenger. Napanee taught the types of messages she knew and ways to discern or decipher them into "vibrationa"l frequencies in a similar way that human languages are expressed in sounds of variable tones, pitch, duration and power. Listening is the key to understanding she said. Finding the vibration in the wind is not as difficult as ...
(to be continued...)
Inconsistencies exist about the life of Benito
Gray Horse related in the accounts of Marcus Phillips and Sandra Long in
the "Story of Chief Benito Altaha Gray Horse" and the award winning
poem, "An Indian is an Indian" by
Verna Lee Hindgardner. Other inconsistencies exist among files located at
the Garland County Historical Society.
Finally, ugliness is interjected into the Story of Gray Horse by
superintendent of the Hot Springs
National Park Service, and her so-called 'historian', Mark Blauer.
Some variations in these stories seem trivial in substance, and others omit vital information necessary to understand the depth and breadth of the man called 'Chief' Gray Horse.
For example, his newspaper obituary omits the fact that Gray Horse served in the Spanish/Cuban Army as a medical doctor during the Spanish-American War. While not said, it infers that he served with in the U.S. Army. Gray Horse detested U.S. General "Black Jack" Pershing who commanded invading forces because of his roll in the capture of Geronimo and his people many years earlier.
His obituary says, "From Cuba, he went to Galveston, Texas, where his first wife and two children were drowned in the Galveston flood. His only surviving son, who was with him at a Dallas fair at the time, served in aviation and was killed during World War I..." Gray Horse lived in Galveston before he went to Spain and then to Cuba. He had only two children by his previous marriage and only one child was killed in the flood and ensuing fire, not two.
His Hot Springs obituary also says, "...For six years following graduation, he practiced medicine in Cuba..." however, Napanee Gray Horse said that he was not in Cuba the entire six years, but left immediately after the short four month war and returned to Spain.
The obituary mentions he spoke five to seven languages, "Cuban, Mexican, Apache, German, and English." The other two were French and Navajo (Dine). He also spoke several Athabaskan dialects.
It is reported that Gray Horse's second wife bore three children. This is not correct. The first child born to the couple died of pneumonia as a baby after government employees allegedly burned their home the night before a winter storm. The baby is buried in on the Manataka mountain. The couple had a total of four children.
Reports say their second child, Teewannee was born in a home of a friend in Malvern because a Hot Springs hospital refused to admit her. However, the birth certificate with Benito's signature shows her birth was in Hot Springs.
Another erroneous report says Gray Horse was the son of Cochise. Cochise had two sons, Taza and Naiche and two daughters by another marriage.
Gray Horse was not a Chief. The term 'chief' was first applied to Gray Horse as a slur by government employees after he settled in Hot Springs. The title was not conferred by the Apache people but because Gray Horse spoke and walked like a proud leader, the title stuck.
Reports say Gray Horse became a doctor first, then a lawyer. Just the opposite is true.
His obituary says "...He later won a four-year scholarship offered to the Quakers and attended school in Germany, specializing in medicine. While in Germany, he was forced to serve one year in the German Army, relatives said...." This is curious statement because at the time of his death, only his wife, Napanee, remained in Hot Springs. The children according to her were not familiar with the time he spent in Europe because even she did not know until after the children had left Hot Springs. Napanee said he voluntarily joined the Spanish Army as a medical doctor.
The German Quakers in Pennsylvania funded his medical education in Europe, but Napanee remembered he received his medical degree in England, although her recollection may be flawed by the passage of time and it would be logical for the Quakers to send him to Germany.
The current superintendent of the Hot Springs National Park Service, Josie Fernandez and her so-called 'historian', Mark Blauer, says "...We know that he marketed Hot Springs water as a restorative named "Sleepy Water", along with picture postcards of his daughter "Princess Napanee". The purpose of the bureaucrats here is to infer that Gray Horse had no respect for the sacredness of the water and therefore he lacked character. Benito sold water to tourists from a cold water source at the Sleepy Water plant at Chewaukla Springs outside the area of the hot springs -- and the Park Service knows this. Why is it necessary for National Park Service employees to turn facts into slurs?
Blauer goes on to say, "...Given his own admission, we find any association of Grayhorse as an actual "Keeper of Manataka" as entirely suspect..."
Exactly what admission is Blauer talking about is anyone's guess -- he never says. Gray Horse was a Keeper of Manataka because he performed ceremony here everyday for many years. He was a Keeper of Manataka because he memorized the ancient stories and gave those stories to those who could hear his messages. He was a Keeper of Manataka because he respected the land and everything on the land. Unlike the National Park Service who chokes the land with ugly concrete and artificial landscaping and squeezes off the life blood of the land by capping the hot springs and funneling the water to the hotels for their own profit. Blauer intentionally misspells his name.
The National Park Service has other unflattering things to say about Gray Horse that are not worthy of comment here. Their motives for besmirching his name is a question. Are they afraid his rich spiritual connection with the mountain would add validity to the fact that Manataka as a sacred site? Do Fernandez and Blauer's make snide comments about the Gray Horse family selling to tourists because they are ashamed of the fact that they are selling the sacred waters to tourists?
The most glaring omissions concerns his life prior to his arrival
at Manataka. What
paths did he travel to become a lawyer, doctor, poet and lecturer?
Why did he go to Europe and what were his adventures there?
Why did he settle in Hot Springs in 1921 (1929)?
It is now necessary to tell the 'rest of the story' because of these and other inconsistencies in stories about Benito Gray Horse.
Ugly Comments and Lies written by the National Park Service:
In a book paid for using taxpayer dollars, A Hot Springs National Park employee and so-called historian, Mark Blauer, uses a composite of several myths to discredit Gray Horse while attempting to create another false myth about him.
"...Benito Altha Gray Horse was indeed a well known fixture of Hot Springs. Like many of his era, myths and stories have fogged much of his past. In one such myth, it was claimed that he was the "Apache Kid". In this story, Grayhorse escaped to Utah and became a Mormon before finally ending up in Arkansas. Although he associated himself with Geronimo and his battles with the U.S. Army in lectures he gave, the "West Official Bulletin National Indian War Veterans U.S.A. Vol XVI No. 5" places him as being away from the band "qualifying as a buffalo hunter" for the Army. This in itself would not be unusual, as there were numerous Apache Scout units fighting against the Apaches during the Apache Indian wars. When the 11th Cavalry deployed to Mexico, twenty of these Indian scouts from Fort Apache joined the regiment to assist their search for the Villistas. Several Apache Scouts were Medal of Honor recipients. With so many conflicting stories about Grayhorse, it's difficult to trace his real history...."
Gray Horse was never known as "the Apache Kid", never became a Morman, never was "stationed" at Fort Apache, never scouted for the U.S. Army and never hunted Poncho Villla. The publication, West Official Bulletin National Indian War Veterans U.S.A. Vol XVI No. 5 does not mention the name Benito Altaha Gray Horse. This is yet another example of using a phony reference to justify slurring his name, and thus further demeaning the sacredness of the Manataka.
"...We do know, from the venerable old man's own written words in letters written in 1928 to Lessie Read, editor of a Fayetteville newspaper, that for almost three decades he made a living by "skinning the tourists". According to these letters, Grayhorse also was offering Indian artifacts for sale.
The least Mark Blauer and his boss Josie Fernandez at the Hot Springs National Park Service could do spell his name right, but like many so called "facts" they cannot get it right. It is known the Gray Horse family handcrafted many things for sale to visitors -- that is an Indian tradition. But, Blauer puts it so that you would believe that Benito sold sacred Indian artifacts. Not true. His definition of an artifact is way off base.
We know that he marketed Hot Springs water as a restorative named "Sleepy Water", along with picture postcards of his daughter "Princess Napanee".
Again, Blauer and Fernandez wants you believe that Gray Horse did something to demean the sacredness of the healing waters of Manataka. He is careful not to explain the water provided to hikers, campers, and the sick in the hospital by Benito Gray Horse came from Chewaukla Springs, also known as Sleepy Water, located off Sleepy Valley Road, a source outside the National Park boundaries -- and not one of the sacred healing waters. Sleepy Water was excellent restorative water.
Given his own admission, we find any association of Grayhorse as an actual "Keeper of Manataka" as entirely suspect. It's more likely that this grand old man is chuckling in his resting place over the tall tales he fostered onto the White Man.
What admission? Gray Horse never made any admission regarding his role at Manataka. It is we, the inheritors of his honored legacy, who say he was a Keeper of Manataka -- because he kept the stories alive, he prayed here and held the grounds sacred.
The Apaches might have lost the wars, but they had the last laugh through this wily ambassador. American Indian Heritage Support Center. (Written by Mark Blauer for the Hot Springs National Park Service)
Blauer and Fernandez use the word "wily" in this sentence as a slur to have you believe Gray Horse was devious, scheming, crafty, or sly like a mean coyote.
It should be obvious that Josie Fernandez, the current Superintendent of Hot Springs National Park Service, stretches the truth and sullies the good name of a beloved icon of Hot Springs history to achieve a personal agenda. As a Cuban-born national trained in communist schools, Fernandez is well versed in creating misinformation.
Gray Horse Family Stories:
Manataka was contacted by the niece and daughter of Teewanee in 2008. According to them, they have no personal recollections of Benito and his wife and no photographs, letters or other personal information about their grandparents. Teewanee is alive and living with her daughter in Arkansas. She is now in her eighties and the daughter refused to allow visitors. According to the granddaughter, Teewanee disliked her father because "...he was mean". Neither the niece or granddaughter knew anything about Benito Gray Horse (not even his name) until the Untold Story of Gray Horse appeared. They said that Geronimo Gray Horse died in Oklahoma in the 1980's. Teewanee lost her Indian heritage and never speaks about it or her childhood.
SILOAM SPRINGS, ARKANSAS: Napanee Inez Goforth, 74, passed away June 18, 2005. She was born April 28, 1931 to Benito Altaha Grayhorse and Louise Grayhorse. She was a dairy farmer, and was a graduate of Bacone College in Muskogee, OK. She attended Nicodemus Community Church. She is survived by two sons, David Goforth and wife Jackie of Siloam Springs, and Mike Goforth and wife Marilyn of Siloam Springs; 3 grandchildren, Natasha Goforth, Joshua Goforth, and Matthew Goforth, all of Siloam Springs; two sisters, Teewahnee Laird of Forrest City, AR and Loretta Prince of Princeton, TX; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Raymond Loren Goforth; an infant daughter; and a brother, Benito Grayhorse. Services were held at Wasson Memorial Chapel with Dr. A.P. Vohs and Rev. John Croce officiating. Cremation arrangements were handled by Wasson Funeral Home.
Research Land Records
Lessie Stringfellow letters
West Official Bulletin National Indian War Veterans U.S.A. Vol XVI No. 5
(TO BE CONTINUED)
The Story of Chief Benito Altaha Gray Horse by Sandra Long and Marcus Phillips and the poem, "An Indian is an Indian" by Verna Lee Hinegardner are from the "Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs National Park" (1994).
Material for 'The Untold Story of Gray Horse' was provided by Napanee Louise Henrietta Gray Horse as given to Takatoka.
Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs National Park
by Marcus Phillips and Sandra Long
The Valley of the Vapors, Manataka -- The Place of Peace was never told as well before this excellent resource guide was written. Well researched with dozens of references, this book contains the colorful history of Hot Springs and Indian legends of this sacred site. The Indian Folk Lore Atlas also serves as a tour guide with seven individual walking tours designed to take the visitor back in time to the actual locations where history was made. This book is endorsed by the American Indian Center of Arkansas, the City of Hot Springs and the Garland County Historical Society. Experts of the Caddo, Quapaw and Cherokee nations consulted on this book. A wonderful addition to any library. Great for the coffee table. Dozens of maps and illustrations. 195 pp. Soft Cover. $37.95
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